Preparing commercial spaces for hurricane season
In 2021 the U.S. will see an above-average number of hurricanes, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).1 How can commercial properties prepare for a hurricane or other severe weather event? One important way is by working with an experienced custodial services provider.
Atlantic Hurricane Season runs June 1 to November 30, and the states most likely to experience hurricanes2 are:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Commercial property owners and managers across the country hold the safety of their workers and customers above all else. During hurricane season in particular, managers face difficult, unpredictable challenges, especially in the southeastern U.S. where hurricanes are more likely to happen.
Keeping everyone prepared can reduce property damage and help commercial property owners, managers, workers, and customers get back to normal after a hurricane. Here are some essential steps to help prepare your property for hurricane season.
Review your emergency plan
There’s a strong chance that you already have an emergency plan in place, and that it’s reviewed regularly.3 However, as more and more commercial properties move to contracted commercial cleaning services, emergency plans may need to be updated to reflect a new partnership and revised standard operating procedures.
Include your custodial team in the planning and review process. A trusted commercial cleaning provider will have additional resources and expertise to complement your current efforts. By inviting them into the process, you can gain thoughtful feedback on how to best protect your people and preserve your assets.
Here are some questions to ask your commercial cleaning team when updating an emergency plan:
- What can we do to prepare our commercial space and make it more resilient?
- If we are a designated emergency shelter, how can we help create a safe, clean, welcoming environment?
- What can we do to prepare costly spaces and equipment?
- How will our commercial cleaning provider prepare in terms of staffing, management, and schedules?
- How will information be shared with between owners, managers, and commercial cleaning teams before, during, and after a hurricane?
Don’t wait until a hurricane warning is issued, because it may already be too late to take certain precautions. Early preparation is key to responding on time when you’re protecting your people and buildings.
Secure your buildings and grounds
While storm path forecasts often show potential landfall locations up to a week in advance, storms can and do quickly change path and intensity. It’s important to prepare well in advance. Here are some things to consider.
How can we secure buildings and other elements to prevent damage?
- Remember, hurricane-force winds can turn landscaping materials into dangerous projectiles that can break windows and doors. Consider replacing gravel or rock in your property’s landscaping with shredded bark. It weighs less and won’t cause as much harm to your buildings, making cleanup faster after the storm.
- Minimize the harm of falling branches by checking regularly for weak or damaged limbs and keeping trees and shrubs trimmed.
- Cut back on possible water damage by sealing outside vents, outdoor electrical outlets, sprinkler hose connections, and any other spot where pipes or cables go through a wall.
- Invest in fitted storm shutters to protect glass doors and windows. Regardless of how you choose to protect your buildings, acquire necessary supplies in advance, and make sure your commercial cleaning partner understands the plan.
- Maintain and clear drainage areas around buildings and parking lots to prevent local flooding.
- If your grounds include portable offices, make sure you know how to secure them against hurricane-force winds. Ask the portables manufacturer or provider for detailed specifications about portable/rental structures at your location, and work with your grounds and maintenance teams to carry out pre-storm preparations. If possible, the best long-term course of action would be to move occupants to a more permanent, more resilient structure, like a concrete or brick building.
Are records, computers, and other equipment safe?
- Whether electronic or on paper, important records can be destroyed during a hurricane, especially by storm-related water damage. Improve the chances of emerging with your records intact by keeping them in a specialized, stormproof space, or by storing them on a higher floor to avoid floodwaters. At the very least, opt for high shelves in a single-story building.
- Most commercial facilities across the country have moved to digital record-keeping. By storing records online, you solve the issue of water-damaged paper records – but you still need to protect the digital documents.
- Make sure all digital records are backed up offsite, and work with your commercial cleaning partner to button up labs, manufacturing spaces, offices, and other specialized commercial properties.
Have we provided our staff and custodial team with the information they need?
- A current inventory of equipment and supplies helps keep things running smoothly if you need repairs or replacements after a hurricane. It can document losses, speed up the insurance claims process, and ease the process of applying for disaster aid.
- Work with your commercial cleaning provider to maintain a full and up-to-date inventory of valuable assets such as floor-care equipment or electrostatic sprayers.
- Keep a detailed inventory of custodial supplies as well, including cleaning solutions and any potentially flammable materials.
- Managers or their emergency teams should also share information with custodial service teams about electricity, gas, and water shutoffs – to save precious time in case of an emergency.
- Communication is a big part of any emergency response – before, during, and after the emergency. Your commercial cleaning partner can be a huge help. Talk with your team in advance about how you’ll stay connected and share information.
Work with the right facilities management team
Want to know more about preparing your commercial space for hurricane season? Contact us at [email protected].
The illustrations, instructions, and principles contained in this website are general in scope and for marketing purposes. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer activities, implementing any recommended measures, or identifying all potential hazards.
3SchoolSafety.gov: Emergency Planning